COVID has had quite an impact on our young people. From missing grad to missing summer vacations, it’s been a difficult year full of emotional and social challenges for our teens.
Now, even the 2020-2021 school year will not be a seamless process for them as well. For example, they are not going to be able to sit with friends, interact, and play sports as they may have done in the past. Some may be frustrated or even depressed from the social withdrawal of COVID’s mandatory quarantine process. We can help them, but we have to be intentional about how we approach teens.
Consider Their Perspective
Teens have the capacity to understand why things are happening to some extent, but like many of us, they do not like the changes and new protocols that they now have to adopt. The change in the school environment may likely be the hardest for them. They have used this environment to meet and cultivate friendships, some of which will last a lifetime. Think back to when you were in school. How would you have felt if you could not communicate with your friends and classmates? Cooperative learning has become so much more important, but people can no longer work in small groups. Your child may be looking forward to returning to in-person classes, but it is likely going to look different and be more challenging.
Consider the Format
Schools have chosen a variety of meeting formats, and they can be confusing for students. Students may be meeting strictly online or face-to-face, or they may meet in a combination of formats. Some school systems have also considered having elementary and middle schools meet face-to-face but for high school students, they are more likely to be successful adapting the online platform because they are independent and mature enough to stay at home alone. These formats all have learning curves. Here are a few tips for each kind of format.
Teens have the capacity to understand why things are happening to some extent but …the change in the school environment may likely be the hardest for them.
Even an all-online format has different components and aspects that need to be considered. Is the class synchronous, asynchronous, or both?
In this type of setting, students will meet online with instructors at a specific time each day. The meeting may be a teleconferencing software or other platforms that the student is not accustomed to using.
These settings are generally ones where the teacher assigns materials or sends home information. Students do not have an instructor at any given time, but they can call, text, or email, depending on the instructor’s preferences.
Students in these settings may have times when they are required to be in synchronous meetings, but they are also given work to complete and upload by a specific time. Most synchronous settings are actually mixed settings, but each school program may be different.
Most schools have chosen not to use this type of setting right now due to the social distancing challenges they are facing. However, charter schools, private schools, and small school settings may be able to do this type of meeting. These students are in classes with one another for the entire day. They may change classes as they are accustomed to doing, but they complete all of their work as they have done in the past. This setting can be especially unnerving, however, if they are suddenly required to wear masks, stay six feet from friends, or remain in the classroom to eat meals. Students are finding that returning to school may not provide the mental help they were hoping.
In locations where COVID cases are relatively low, they have tried to return to a combination setting when possible. For high school students, they may have some days or some classes that meet strictly online, and other days or classes take place in the traditional classroom. This type of setting is terrific for students because it helps them see their friends in both controlled and relaxed settings, but they are not exposed all day every day.
Managing Changing Needs
There are a few things that parents can do to help their high school student manage their needs. The first thing to do is acknowledge that they may never attend high school the way they once did (at least for the near term) but that they can still be successful.
Get your high schooler a planner and help them learn to use it. Many schools provide planners for students but never help them learn what to put in it or why. Help them put important dates such as assignment due dates, school closing dates, and remote learning days. In addition to writing important dates, help students learn time management skills by writing in when they want to have parts of projects done to minimize last-minute work.
In addition to planners, help students learn to organize emails, essential papers, or websites. Teaching them to categorize their favorites lists, passwords, or other relevant information can be just as helpful as helping with content.
Plan socially distanced activities for your children and their friends. They need to be able to spend time together when possible. Plan study sessions or pods to help them learn while maintaining socially distanced spaces. When weather permits, schedule outdoor activities.
Help Them Decompress
These changes are difficult. You should allow your child to be vocal about their fears, hopes, concerns, and needs. Sometimes teens need to be able to vent without fear of retaliation. You can require that certain boundaries be maintained, but your teen needs to be able to speak freely about how they feel. If their fears are unwarranted, help them see why rather than just telling them that’s not going to happen. Sometimes what they need is to have a plan in place if the unthinkable happens.
Take the changes as they come, but try to keep up with changes and protocols before they happen. You do not have to have all of the answers, but you should help your teen to understand what their roles are and what to do when they are overwhelmed. This pandemic is overwhelming for most people. It will be no different for your children, no matter how old they are. Help your teen become independent, but it is okay not to let them feel alone.